Air ace who fought in the Battle of Britain and the defence of Malta
After joining the Auxiliary Air Force as a photographer before the war, “Bam”
Bamberger saw action as a Spitfire pilot during the Battle of Britain, after
which he was posted to Malta where he took part in the desperate air defence
of the island during 1941. He was subsequently involved in fighter
operations in support of the invasion of Sicily and the Eighth Army's drive
up through Italy.
Cyril Stanley “Bam” Bamberger was born in Hyde, Cheshire, and educated
locally. He left school at 14 and joined Lever Brothers as an electrical
aprentice in 1934. In 1936 he volunteered for the Auxiliary Air Force and
was posted as a photographer to 610 “County of Chester” Squadron, which had
been formed that year as a bomber squadron at Hooton Park in the Wirral, not
far from the company's Port Sunlight headquarters. He was accepted for pilot
training in 1938, not long after which the squadron became a fighter unit
and received its first Spitfires early in 1940.
In July 1940 the squadron was moved to Biggin Hill, and Bamberger flew with it
as a sergeant pilot during the early air fighting over the Channel that
followed the Dunkirk evacuation. The squadron suffered heavy casualties but
Bamberger was credited with a “probable” Messerschmitt Me109 on August 28 in
combat off the Kent coast.
When 610 was withdrawn to rest in mid-September Bamberger was posted to 41
Squadron and was soon back in action over Kent, where he gained his first
confirmed combat victory, again over an Me109, on October 15.
With the Battle of Britain winding down, Bamberger volunteered for Malta, and
on November 17, 1940, was in the Mediterranean aboard the aircraft carrier
Argus from which a dozen Hurricanes were flown off, led by two naval Skuas,
for the 450-mile flight to the island. As he was not familiar with the
Hurricane he was not among those pilots selected to fly, and hence was
spared the tragedy that ensued.
Many of the pilots, unused to long range flying, had set their engine revs too
high for a flight of that length, and the navigator of one of the guiding
Skuas was fresh from training school. Eight Hurricanes and one Skua ran out
of fuel and were lost. The four fighters that reached Malta safely did so
with respectively, 12, four, three and two gallons of petrol in their tanks.
Bamberger reached Malta in December in the destroyer Hotspur. With the island
under heavy air attack, he was soon in thick of the action with 261
Squadron, and he shot down two Ju87 Stukas on successive days in January
1941 over Grand Harbour.
After a period back in the UK where he was commissioned and helped to train
arriving American pilots in gunnery, he was back in the Mediterranean, this
time as a flight commander with 93 Squadron, scoring further victories in
the Sicilian and Italian campaigns before returning to Britain as a gunnery
instructor in late 1944. By then his leadership and fine shooting had earned
him the DFC and Bar.
After demobilisation he returned to Lever before joining the management of a
Guinness subsidiary. When 610 Squadron was reformed as a Royal Auxiliary Air
Force unit he rejoined it as a flight commander and became its CO in 1950,
by when it had converted to Gloster Meteors. When the RAuxAF was mobilised
after the outbreak of the Korean War he accepted a permanent commission, and
for most of the duration of that conflict was an intelligence officer at the
He later converted to helicopters and served in a squadron of Bristol
Sycamores in Aden, finally retiring in 1959, by which time he had also
received the Air Efficiency Award and Bar.
He then went into business, founding a packaging materials company, and then
running an antiques business.He remained active in RAF matters and was
closely involved with the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, of which
he was vice-chairman.
“Bam” Bamberger is survived by his wife Heather, whom he married in 1954, and
by three sons and a daughter.
Squadron Leader “Bam” Bamberger, DFC and Bar, AE and Bar, wartime fighter
pilot, was born on May 4, 1919. He died on February 3, 2008, aged 88